3 Key Elements To Prepare Before A Voc Rehab Meeting (Or Any VA Meeting)

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Voc Rehab Meeting

Benjamin KrauseThere are three key down and dirty elements that you need to prepare before you attend a first meeting Voc Rehab meeting with your Voc Rehab Counselor that we will cover here. Do you know what they are?

Countless veterans seeking benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs fail to prepare before meetings. In many instances, this failure results in a delay or denial of benefits — not because the veteran was not entitled — but because they failed to convey their case clearly.

Whether seeking disability benefits, pension benefits, or Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) benefits, the key elements that affect how successful your claim goes rest solely on your willingness to prepare and work for the benefits.

Did you prepare yourself for boot camp? Did you prepare before a job interview? Did you study for a test? Why would you not prepare prior to asking someone for thousands in disability compensation or retraining money?

When you ask anyone for money, it seems logical to prepare prior to asking for it. I know. I prepared an entire portfolio prior to seeking a home loan. I did the same prior to applying for undergraduate admission to Northwestern University as well as law school at the University of Minnesota. And, I did the same when I asked Voc Rehab to send me to law school. The same holds true for my disability compensation claims.

In many instances, I have run across unsuccessful veterans’ claims where the lack of success hinged on the veterans perception of entitlement. Many veterans feel VA should do all the heavy lifting, and then they expect VA to conform to that expectation despite the reality that VA has never conformed to any veteran’s expectation.

The reality is that no one will care more about your claim than you. The other reality is that VA is a huge bureaucracy that chews up and spits out veterans on a daily basis. So be prepared to avoid the roadblocks that can impede on your success by preparing and not expecting VA to behave inline with your expectations. It will save you a lot of heart ache to hope for the best but plan for the worst.

3 KEY ELEMENTS BEFORE A VR&E MEETING

Your preparation should focus on three elements that I explain below. We hit on these more in depth in my guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans:

  1. Learn the relevant laws
  2. Learn how your facts fit the laws
  3. Write down the relevant facts supported by the laws

First, review the laws and regulations related to whatever it is you are seeking. For VR&E, you should look at 38 CFR 21.1-420. (You really only need to look at 21.1-60 for the first appointment.) Knowing the law is vital in light of what we now know about VA post wait list scandal. Veterans certainly cannot rely on VA to know it or to quote it correctly to you if there is a question.

Second, review your facts after you review the relevant laws. Again, this is important. Knowing the law first will help you understand what facts in your background are important to bring up. Otherwise, you run the risk of dumping your entire life story on a person who only has 10 minutes to review the case. If your facts do not line up with the law, then you will likely get denied.

To recap quickly, first review the law. Then review your facts in light of the law. Now let’s jump into what we need to do with these two elements in our preparation.

Third, create an outline or a 1-2 page document that contains the relevant facts and annotate it with citations to the law where appropriate. Include reasoning as to why these facts mean that you should get the benefits you seek. Bring a copy for the VA employee you are meeting with, so she can review with you. Also be sure to bring any supporting evidence not already in your file.

For Voc Rehab, here is my (over) simplification regarding the laws and getting the benefits you seek. You must have a disability rating. That rating must impair your ability to either find work or maintain gainful employment within a suitable occupation. If the disability impacts your ability to keep your current job, then that is an important issue Voc Rehab can help with. Finally, you should be in a mindset where you are seeking work or some other form of activity if you are too disabled to work.

Research the law and make sure your facts line up. Then write it down in a reasonably clear presentation (I like PowerPoint) for the counselor.

Could it be any simpler? Probably, but that would steal the joy out of being approved for the benefits you seek.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I think this is wonderful information, if you have the ability to do all this.
    I have worked with people that have brain injury, most are very employable with a little help. Organizational skills, are almost always compromised.

    With that in mind, and the staggering number of new veterans, with brain Injury, I see a real need for the advocate to be the first contact.

    Many people with brain injury are not aware, of their disability, and appear fine to the person they are interacting with.

    If a veteran is missing a hand, no one would be so cruel, as to hold out a cup and demand the person to Just Pick This Up.
    Yet on a daily basis, I watch this same demand, put on the person with a brain injury, figuratively speaking, they are not able to pick up the cup either.

    Thousands of veterans, out there, are undiagnosed and struggle, just to
    get through another day.

    There needs to be more awareness, starting with the VA employees, so that all veterans receive appropriate assistance..

    • Thank you James, I have had a very good mentor that taught me this.
      You have every right for your mistrust. However there are many dedicated ethical people that do these studies. I would ask for full informed consent of the study. Then talk with the person doing the study, and see if there can be any sort of trust level.

      You should be very proud of what you have done in your life, this is why I like the term Ability, rather than disability.

      What state is this study being done?

      • Shirly in Denver, I called them and it was determined that since I live 200 miles from Denver and weekly it would be a hardship on me, so they will contact me if they should have one closer to my area. have a good day

  2. Shirley, This is so true about veterans with a T.B.I., After 40 years I was Dx with an old T.B.I.. I never knew I had one. I knew that my memory was a problem and I had to compesate by writing down important information and keeping a folder. The V.A. needs to ensure that those with T.B.I., need to be screened from when they get out of the service. I knew something was wrong and did not know that I had a T.B.I.. I knew that I had been shot in the head point blank and applied for disability and the V.A. denighed me treatment, stating they did not have anything from my military records and later found out they had the records all along. Even though I had a T.B.I., I was able to hold a job, but had to keep refering to my notes or regulations. I was able to advance myself using this method. Some people think a person with a T.B.I. can not do certain things and are slow. I am proof that persons with this disability can work. I just wish that the V.A. would have treated me from the begaining and I would have known that my memory problems were from the T.B.I. and I could of received the proper treatment. Like you said we can work. I know that some T.B.I.’s are worse than others and they may not be able to hold a job. The V.A. sent me a letter asking if I wanted to join a research study for veterans with T.B.I., My current distrust with the V.A., I do not know if I can trust them. Too many times the V.A. asks questions and you answer, but they make a report that is so different, than what was actually said. Twist your words.

  3. I got bumped up the 100% but Voc Rehab says they don’t have to help me since my college degree is current from 17 years ago and that the others they mentioned 4-5 they paid to go to law school graduated and could not find jobs after law school so they will not pay. They will only offer me to do a Master of Science in Engineering and I never even made this request. I was further told that the VA can only pay $25,000 per year tution and law school can be over $40,000 per year. The counselor just came up with excuse after excuse even though I have a well laid out plan and obtaining employment. Many baby boomer are going to be retiring in the next 6 – 10 years that will open up many fields. Counselor also added that if I do Voc Rehab and complete it that I would have my VA disability reduced even when I am not in UI program.

    I was wondering what could I do better in order for VA to approve my request to go to law school?

    • I realize this is an old thread, but subjects die off quickly around here, and things like Voc. Rehab need to be a weekly subject.
      Where do these Counselors get their facts?
      Where is an annual limit to what can be spent on a particular degree’s cost?
      I have been encouraged to file for the UI program too, but I want to remain re-trainable, so many within the VA system write you off once you have that Unemployable label. damn the money, I want to be re-trained, and help others to get those same earned benefits.

      So many times the “programs” and benefits are of limited value because they come with strings, I did my best to use the VRAP program for older Vets, but even as potentially good as it was, it was limited in length, and restricted to “shortage” jobs. Who is to say what a shortage job is?

      It’s about time the Legislature lifted the limitations, and just flat out allowed Vets to retrain in whatever they want to do, just as free citizens do.
      If you really want to go to law school, and you have intestinal fortitude to progress through your undergrad and more power to you, having a more educated veteran population and society hurts whom?

      I say enough with the reigns, open the flood gates, bring on the retraining and higher learning.

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